WV Court Asked To Rule On Gas Drilling Question

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A federal judge says the state Supreme Court should rule on whether West Virginia law allows a drilling company to use a Marion County farmer's land to sink horizontal wells that would draw gas from neighboring tracts.

Richard Cain doesn't own the rights to oil, gas and minerals under his land. But he argues a 1907 deed at the center of his lawsuit never envisioned such extensive surface disruption.

He says Exxon Mobil subsidiary XTO Energy would leave him mostly with steep, unusable hillsides.

XTO plans to use 36 acres for as many as 18 wells, arguing it's "reasonably necessary."

U.S. District Judge Irene Keeley says the case has far-reaching legal and economic implications for West Virginia, and the state's highest court must address such important and unsettled legal issues.